December 13, 2009

Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders Receives National Grant

Award will support sustainable water project in El Convento, Honduras

The Lafayette student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) has been awarded a Boeing grant through Engineers Without Borders-USA to help fund its ongoing work to bring clean water to rural Honduras.

EWB is working to build a new water system for El Convento, a poor village of about 40 families living in two-room wood and clay houses without modern conveniences. The community has been without a water system since 1998, when its previous system was destroyed by Hurricane Mitch.

In March, the students, representing disciplines in engineering and the liberal arts, will return to El Convento to build water-collection dams and to clear the site for the eventual construction of a 5,000-gallon storage tank. The $12,000 grant will support travel costs and the purchase of materials, such as PVC pipe and cement.

The sustainable water filtration and distribution system will provide access to clean water at every home in El Convento. The entire project should take roughly two years to complete.

Jordanna Kauffman ’11 (Olney, Md.), an economics and business major, and EWB chapter president Alec Bernstein ’11 (Colts Neck, N.J.), a civil engineering major, wrote the grant application, which involved providing detailed descriptions of the work so far and goals for the project, along with photos showing progress.

“Since I am in charge of fundraising, I have worked with writing grants before but this is the first grant that I have personally worked on which has won EWB money,” Kauffman said. “I learned a great deal about the importance of what a company is looking for when they distribute money.”

Kauffman will continue to be the fundraising chair for the spring semester, raising money for future trips. She is working on a Carbon14 Environmental Grant for $50,000, in which students will be able to vote for EWB’s project at the Carbon 14 web site.

El Convento, located in the Yoro district of central Honduras, is the third sustainable water project Lafayette’s EWB students have worked on in the country since 2003. They also implemented gravity-fed water systems in neighboring Lagunitas and La Fortuna. The group’s previous work garnered national media exposure for Lafayette as one of six institutions to receive a $75,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

EWB adviser Josh Smith, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has been guiding the students’ work in El Convento. Professors provide guidance for the work, but students take full ownership of the project, which provides them with real-world preparation for their futures.

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